Foxy (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Ep76)

I found inspiration in 2 very different places when coming up with our new systems

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Life in Lansdowne is off to a promising start. The players are enthusiastic and optimistic, and they’re adapting to my new systems well. My adopted assistant manager, Keith America, seems to borderline know what he’s doing…

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…and best of all, I’ve found that Santos are a very sensibly run club, which means that on the downside there’s not much money for me to spend on the squad, but on the upside I’ve started my National B License course, authorised by the Chairman Goolam Allie and funded with Santos’ pretty decent bank balance.

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My landlord Stevie was onto something with regards to the players. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t great. They’re a bit so-so. My new systems are designed to get the best out of them. As is customary, allow me to introduce you to my preliminary starting XI.

Goalkeeper – No 31 – Dino Visser

I should probably mention straight off the bat that the quality of players here in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) is lower than it was in Poland, mainly due to strict Homegrown quotas and work permit regulations. So with that in mind, our new shot stopper Dino Visser is what I would describe as “The bare minimum”. He’s tall with good reach, handling, reflexes and agility. As we get to know the league it might turn out that he’s on par with the other clubs’ goalkeepers, but for some reason I doubt it. The good news though is that at 29 he’s just coming into his prime and has some good experience behind him.

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Right Defensive Full Back – No 4 – Jino Moeketsi

Moe is exactly the kind of full back that I like. I’ve never managed at a big club that can afford fancy attacking wingbacks, so I like my fullbacks to be tall, defensively minded and solid. Moe is just that.

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Centre Back – No 15 – Issouf Paro

I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I’ve got a 100% record of getting the best out of Burkinabe International centre backs. This gives me hope for the thrice capped Paro, who is strong technically and physically, but could be prone to switching off and making the odd mistake.

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Defensive Centre Back – No 23 – Nathan Gertse

Nathan has played most of his career at right back, I presume because of his pretty decent pace, but for me he’s a centre back. He’ll form a very physically imposing partnership with Paro.

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Left Defensive Full Back – No 13 – Aidan Jenniker

I could just repeat what I said about full backs a second ago, but you get the idea. Jenniker is solid and defensive, with the added bonus that he’s not bad going forwards either.

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Ball Winning Defensive Midfielder – No 12 – Marothi Diale

It will become clear in a second when I talk about the system why I see Marothi as a potentially important player for us. He’s energetic, defensively excellent and aggressive enough, but like a lot of the others he lacks determination, which worries me.

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Deep Lying Playmaker – No 8 – Sandile Sibande

The only 2 things that annoy me about Sandile are that his decision making is poor, and that his surname is just not quite an anagram of Sinbad. But you know I’m going to call him Sinbad anyway. Other than those 2 things, he really is a Rolls Royce of a player for a team like us. He’s great on the ball, good defensively, and an excellent worker and team player. Remember the name, because Sinbad is going to be an extremely important player for us.

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Left Winger – No 6 – Sello Japhta

Sello is going to be important for us too. You can have all the good defensive players you like, but you also need an outlet to start counter attacks. Sello has pace, flair, and times his runs well, on top of having a decent end product.

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Right Winger – No 9 – Ryan Moon

Ryan’s an interesting player. He says that his best position is up front, but I see him as a right winger. Like Sello, he’s pacy and has some tricks up his sleeve, but with Ryan it’s all about the end product. He’s got great technique, a wonderful first touch, can dribble fantastically and has a hell of a shot on him.

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Attacking Midfielder – No 11 – Suhayl Allie

I’ve chosen to cut out the middle of Suhayl Allie’s name, and he’ll be addressed as Sullie. He’s one of the younger players in this fairly old team at just 24 and I’m not entirely sure if we’ll be able to depend on him, but for the time being he’s the best attacking midfielder we have. He’s pretty good on the ball, with good technique, first touch and passing, he’s very physically fit and has decent pace and flair. Watch this space, because he could be our star player… Or he could be a complete flop.

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Poacher & Vice Captain – No 10 – Emil Sambou

Finally we need a goalscorer, so say hello to Emil Sambou. He and Paro are the only non-South-African players to be in my preliminary XI. Sambou is a Gambian international, who plays alongside the fairly well known former Swansea and now Preston North End striker Modou Barrow at International level. Emil is great off the ball, has decent enough pace and can finish with his boots or his head. As a traditional poacher I think he’ll do very well indeed.

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Captain – No 5 – Philani Cele

It would be remiss of me not to mention our skipper, Philani Cele. As you’ll probably have gathered over the last 3 years, I’m not someone who will charge into a new club and just give the armband to whoever I like. I like to keep the existing captain in place for at least a season, but for the first time having joined my new club, I’m not sure whether the captain will have a guarenteed spot in my starting XI. Luckily, Philani is a bit of a utility player who’s comfortable on the right side of defence or midfield, as well as at centre back and defensive midfield. He’s pretty good defensively but technically limited, which isn’t a huge problem for those positions. He’s mentally strong and physically imposing at 6’3″, and although he’s not in my preliminary lineup I’m sure he’ll get plenty of football when the season gets going.

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I found inspiration in 2 very different places when coming up with our new systems: Firstly, for the preliminary lineup that you’ve just seen, I looked at Claudio Ranieri’s 2015/16 Leicester City side, hence Project: Foxy:

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There are similarities between us and that Leicester team, definitely. We have pace in the final third, tonnes of it, which means that a counter attacking playstyle may be our only option at the minute. We have solid defenders, a vicious ball winning midfielder, a quality ball player, a good balance between attacking impetus, creativity and willingness to keep the shape on the wings and a (hopefully) decent enough strike force to tie it all together. I just need to make sure that the team is well drilled and make us as difficult to beat and as lethal on the counter attack as Ranieri’s side was.

The other place that I found inspiration was… In fact, I’ll keep that to myself for now. You’ll see Project: CO in due course.

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Procrastination (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode

I procrastinate far too often for a grown man.

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What kind of Manager am I? I stare at the two sheets of paper on the desk in front of me. Well I stare past them, really. I stare at the desk. I stare at the spot in the desk where somebody’s taken a big chip out of the wood, right in the centre, so that when you put the paper down and write on it your pen goes through, and you need to go and get another sheet and move it to the side of the chip. What kind of Monster would do such a thing? What kind of arse hole takes a chunk out of the centre of the writing desk in a furnished flat, just to spite the next tenant?

I stare at the sheets of paper again. I force myself. I procrastinate far too often for a grown man. I feel like I’m trying to study for my GCSE’s again. I’d have my Biology textbook open on the same page for about 5 hours while I watched Gavin and Stacey “In the background”, forcing myself to look down for about 10 seconds every half hour or so, so that the only thing that sinks in is “Osmosis is the net movement of water particles through a partially permeable membrane from high to low concentration.” Never even came up in the exam. It never came up and here I am 10 years later, able to remember that sentence but not the names of vague acquaintances that I’ve met more than enough times for them to sink in. I’m able to remember that sentence, but I can’t remember to take my bags for life back to the pissing supermarket. I must have spent at least a grand on 50p carrier bags since their introduction. I’m the exact opposite of an eco-warrior. I might as well be dumping toxic waste into the sea. I might as well be kicking sea-lions directly in the face.

It happened again didn’t it. Focus, man. This is important. After a year like I’ve just had I need to come up with a tactical plan so brilliant, so groundbreaking, that the name WT Franjo is catapulted into the spotlight of world football. As a success, not a failure. That’s important. So why is it so difficult? I’ve had my first training session with Santos, I’ve made my notes on all the lads, and I just need to write down eleven names and a shit tonne of arrows. And then do it again. I need more than one system after all.

So what kind of Manager am I? Am I the kind of Manager that imposes a system on the players he inherits? The kind that imposes a system and buys a load of new players to fit it? Or am I the kind of Manager who gets the best out of what he already has, maybe with one or two adjustments? Am I Type 1, 2 or 3?

With Höllviken I was type 3, although that was rather imposed upon me. I only made signings to get 11 names on the team sheet. With Angrense… My beloved Angrense… I was type 3 again, surely. Yes I signed Hurley, but that first half season I largely made do. With Katowice, I’d have to say that I was type 2. I did need to sign centre backs because we didn’t have any, but I then proceeded to go a bit mad, signing a raft of new players and expecting them to gel with the existing ones.

So overall, I’m type 3. There is no type 2.6666666 so I’m type 3. I’ll make the most out of what I have. Now if I can just figure out what that is, I’ll really be onto a winner.

Episode 76 >

Brexit (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode

Fuck you, Savage.

Start from the start with episode 1

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I glance around my flat, searching for something to do. Something to talk about. Anything. Anything at all. I’m so bored. There’s nothing new with Meatloaf and Burnie. Meatloaf’s still a dickhead and Burnie’s still the lovable scaredy cat. I’ve currently got no tactical decisions to make, no transfers on the horizon, no drama at all in fact, footballing or otherwise. I take a deep breath and let out a long sigh… Fine, let’s talk about Brexit.

The United Kingdom is, to quote Graham Chapman, a silly place. It’s a silly place where rich silly people tell poor silly people to vote for laughably silly things. The poor silly people, just to compound the misery of everyone involved, then proceed to vote for the laughably silly things. The upshot of this is that the Kingdom is basically fucked. The silly people will stay imprisoned in a jail of their own making, breeding with other silly imprisoned people and creating silly imprisoned children, who will grow up and vote for an entirely new generation of silly people and laughably silly things, thus completing the silly circle of life in the United Kingdom. Anyway, I’ve decided to stay very neutral, journalistic and professional about the whole thing as I tell you all about how Brexit has played out back in Great Britain.

In truth, the warning signs were there for all to see in early 2018 when Theresa May resigned her post as Prime Minister due to a lack of support and a publicity stunt by bookmakers BetFred went horribly wrong when the public voted in Robbie Savage as her replacement, narrowly beating Alan Curbishley in the polls. Robbie Savage, to give him his dues, was a pretty horrific footballer but a decent defensive midfielder. He was actually like a “Premier League standard” version of me in my playing days, so I can’t really have a go in that regard. Since retirement, he’s been a regular presenter on the BBC’s pit of unrelenting toxicity known as the 606 phone in, and more recently the Fletch and Sav show, which to be honest I’ve never watched, so I can’t really comment. The Welshman was faced with a sink or swim round of negotiations to determine the fate of the UK and their relations with the EU, and much like in his playing days he went diving into the metaphorical ocean with 2 feet and studs raised, dropping like a sack of spuds deep beneath the waves. To put it simply, it turns out that Robbie Savage is unable to negotiate. My homeland was left with a ridiculously confusing and long-winded deal. Mind you, it just wouldn’t be political negotiations if the outcome wasn’t wordy, confusing and needlessly complicated, so here we go…

So whether a non-domestic player is signing for an English club with or without a pre-existing work permit or even if he’s just renewing his contract, the rules that determine if a permit is granted are the same, in as much as he must have played in a certain percentage of his nation’s recent International matches. If his national team is in the top 10 in the FIFA World rankings, he must have played 30% of their recent matches. If the nation is in the top 20, then it’s 45%. In the top 30 it’s 60% and in the top 50 it’s 75%. To be honest I’ve no idea what happens if the poor bloke made the unfortunate decision to be born and raised in a nation outside the top 50, but I would imagine that they’re just out on their arse. If the work permit is not granted, the club must wait 120 days before applying again.

Of course, the club could choose to appeal the decision. If the club appeals, then the decision is postponed and a work permit can be granted as long as the player ticks enough of the boxes to convince the powers that be that he deserves a chance to come over and play football. The boxes are as follows (Player needs 4 points to gain a work permit on appeal):

3 points are given if the transfer fee paid for the player is in the top 25% of Premier League transfers in the last 2 windows. Currently in the Premier League the bar to beat is £9.25M, but I imagine that fees will increase to beat that figure, driving the average up, and hence raising the bar that needs to be beaten. This could get messy. 2 points are given if the fee is in the top 50% over the same period (Currently £3.7M).

Another way to bag 3 of the 4 points required is if the player’s proposed wage would put them in the top 25% of the 30 highest earners at the club. Again, 2 points are given if they’ll be among the top 50%.

1 point is given if the player being signed is currently an “active player” for a club playing in the top 6 leagues in Europe or the top 2 leagues in South America. “Active player” is an extremely ambiguous description and will undoubtably lead to arguments. In other words, it fits perfectly into the football rule book.

Simple, eh? Of course not. You got ripped off, Savage. We all got ripped off.

So let’s just think about the fallout from the deal that the former Blackburn Rovers midfielder made with the European Union. Firstly, because of the work permit appeal system, the teams with money will still be able to get any player they want, giving them another advantage over the rest. Just tack an extra few million onto the fee and an extra £15k onto the weekly wage and you’re sorted. I hate this. I hate this with a fucking passion. The gap between the rich clubs and everyone else will grow exponentially because of these bloody rules, making the Premier League more predictable, which is the worst thing it could be.

Secondly, I’ve already mentioned the fact that everyone tacking on a few more million every time they want to sign a player will raise the average transfer fee, which will mean that everyone needs to tack a few more million on. The same goes for wages. These rules are going to accelerate inflation in football! Accelerate inflation! As if it needs any bloody help! As if the amount of money swilling around the game isn’t already utterly laughable.

Finally, as I’ve mentioned, throwing yet another ambiguous rule regarding “Active players” into football that’s “At the discretion of XYZ” will only end in tears and will ironically make the 606 phonelines that Savage used to abide explode with furious football fans, just itching to give their “controversial” 2 cents about the direction in which the game’s going.

By the way, I understand that this doesn’t affect us at the minute, but my career is only just beginning. I guarantee you I will head back to Blighty eventually, and when I do I’m going to have to deal with all this shite. For now though I’m going to settle into my new job and my new flat in Lansdowne and let Mourinho, Guardiola and co deal with it.

So to summarise, top level football is going to be more predictable, even more advantageous to the rich and even more ambiguous from now on. Fuck you, Savage. Fuck you, Brexit.

Stevie & Chappie (Franjo: A Journeyman Story – Mini-sode

“Santos is the people’s team, bru.”

Start from the start with episode 1

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I’ve never been outside Europe before, you know. Never. I’ve always wanted to though. There’s certain countries that I’ve always been wary of visiting, like Australia, purely because it seems like it’s designed specifically to eat, poison, or just generally kill humans, what with all the sharks, spiders, snakes, stingrays etc, but I’d still go. I want to explore these places. I want to see them all. The thought does cross my mind though, as I sit quietly like a brave boy and receive my jabs for Diphtheria, Cholera, Hepititis A and B, Rabies, Tetanus and Typhoid, that I may be jumping right into the deep end here.

My flight from Katowice takes 15 hours, with a quick 90 minute stop in Frankfurt, before eventually touching down in Cape Town. From there, I catch a train to the small and relatively quiet suburb of Lansdowne. My new home.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m so drastically unenlightened to life outside of my European bubble, but I’d sort of expected Africa to be a 24/7 safari. I’d heard that Cape Town was inhabited by Otters, Seals, Wildebeest, Mongooses, Porcupines, Aardvarks, Leopards and Baboons, so to find my new digs on a quiet suburban street with no herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically across the main road is a huge disappointment.

I’ve rented a 5th floor apartment in quite a small block of flats, set back slightly from the road behind a mesh security fence. It’s a fairly nice building, with a sign next to the door that reads “Geen Rook Nie”. I assume that this is the name of the building. It sounds pretty exotic.

After a few minutes, I’m joined outside the security gate by a man that I recognise to be my new landlord, Stevie. He’s a tall, heavily built bloke with bronze skin and a friendly look about him. His hair’s braided into cornrows and he’s wearing the 2019/2020 Santos FC Home shirt, which was only released yesterday. Trotting alongside Stevie is a dog; Some kind of collie cross by the looks of it, although my dog breed knowledge has never been fantastic. She’s panting excitedly at Stevie’s heel as she watches me.

“There’s your keys, bra”, he says, with probably too much enthusiasm for such a mundane event. He hands me a trio of keys on a ring: One for the gate, another for the Geen Rook Nie building and a third for my flat.

“Cheers”, I mutter. “Want me to sign that?” I gesture to the Santos shirt.

Stevie grins. “Let’s see how you fare first, bru, eh?”

“Probably fair enough” I grin. “What’s you dog’s name?” I glance down at the Collie-ish dog, who is still watching me with interest, her tongue lolling out as she pants.

“She’s called Chappie. Say hello Cha…” Stevie is cut off as Chappie lunges towards me, almost knocking me over. She jumps up and rests her front paws on my stomach, supporting herself with just her hind legs, and I give her a stroke and a scratch behind the ear. It’s only now that I appreciate just how big Chappie is; she’s almost as tall as me now that she’s stood up on her hind legs. After getting a good look at me, Chappie lowers herself back onto four feet and goes back to Stevie’s heel. I smile as I watch her, then I look back at Stevie.

“Nice dog”, I smile. He smiles and nods. “So you’re a Santos fan then?” I ask, pretty redundantly.

“Ya, nee, all my life, bru.” He replies proudly.

“Go on then, what have I let myself in for?” I ask, anxious to get a fan’s perspective on my new club.

Stevie thinks for a moment. “Santos is the people’s team, bru. We aren’t the oldest club in the world, but we’re proud, you know?” His face suddenly turns very serious. “If you want my honest opinion bra, the players we have aren’t great. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t great. We stayed up last year, but it could still be tough trying to keep us up.”

I furrow my brow. “So what would you do if you were me?”

“Ag man, unless you can buy a whole new team…” Stevie scratches his chin and sighs. “You’ve got to get more out of them”, he concludes unconvincingly. It’s not the helpful and insightful ‘voice of the fans’ that I’d been hoping for.

I thank Stevie, give Chappie another scratch behind the ear, and make my way through the gate, into the building and into my new flat. My cats, Meatloaf and Burnie, are already in there. For a moment, I question how that’s actually possible, but then I just accept it as the explanation is probably dull and not worth thinking about too much.

After initially dismissing Stevie’s words as unhelpful, I find myself going over them in my head that night. How do you get the best out of what you’ve got? How do you lift mediocre players to the point where they can challenge the best in the league?

I’ve got some ideas.

Mini-sode >
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